- Alex Sharp

The 14-time Grand Slam champion has surged from world No.22 to top the rankings

Novak Djokovic Rolex Paris Masters 2018©C.Dubreuil/FFT

Shock exits, perplexed press conferences, lacking confidence, out of character – Novak Djokovic’s turbulent journey back from elbow surgery in February was exacerbated in Paris.

World No.72 Marco Cecchinato dismantled a dismayed Djokovic in the Roland Garros quarter-finals.

However, since then the Serbian has surged back to the peak of his powers. In seven tournaments Djokovic has lifted four trophies (including Wimbledon and the US Open), alongside two further finals.

35 wins and just three defeats have followed, a staggering 86-18 set record is a simple stat to exemplify his true resurgence.

June 5th – defeat by Cecchinato, exactly five months later on November 5th – Djokovic is world No.1 once again!



Mountains provided inspiration for hike up rankings

"We sat down and we just looked at the world from that perspective," stated Djokovic following his US Open triumph.

He had climbed Mont Sainte-Victoire in the south of France with wife Jelena to banish the demons of Roland Garros and it certainly worked.

"I breathed in the new inspiration, new motivation. I thought of tennis, thought of the emotion that tennis provokes in me. It was all positives. I just felt like I had a new breath for this sport. The rest is history in terms of results. I played finals of Queen's, won Wimbledon, won Cincinnati, and won US Open. I guess we'll be hiking some more very soon."



Paris the scene once again

Djokovic completed his career Grand Slam in Paris at Roland Garros in 2016.

Well, with Rafael Nadal forced to withdraw from the Rolex Paris Masters, Djokovic grasped his chance to steal the world No.1 ranking with a run to the final. The pulsating 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-6(3) semi-final against Roger Federer was a modern-day Masters 1000 classic and further illustrated Djokovic’s renaissance was complete. 

Well, we’ve had epic matches throughout our rivalry but this one definitely ranks as one of the best matches we played. High quality tennis. Next to the match I played against Nadal in semis of Wimbledon, this was definitely the most exciting match I was playing this year, and probably the best quality tennis match that I was part of,” reflected Djokovic, who has asserted his authority over his main rivals with his gladiatorial brand of tennis.

So, I'm getting into season finale with a lot of confidence and feeling good about my game.

Comeback an inspiration 

Karen Khachanov, who toppled Djokovic in straight sets to lift a maiden Masters 1000 title, used his champion’s speech to pay tribute to his opponent in Bercy. 

"You are such an inspiration to a lot of players and you are truly a champion of our sport, said the Russian. I was proud to share the court with you today. Congrats to you and to your team, you did an amazing job.



Peak arrived ahead of schedule

Djokovic’s long-term coach Marian Vajda and fitness specialist Gebhard Gritsch returned to his set-up after a year break in May, which clearly sparked a “new beginning for me.



Their first event reunited was the Monte Carlo Masters, where the 14-time Grand Slam champion won two matches before defeat by Roland-Garros finalist Dominic Thiem.

I had to accept the fact that I'm in the process and that takes time to build. And it takes time to really find the proper rhythm in the game. I had to compensate my serve, and my whole game just needed some reinventing I would say,” admitted a jubilant Djokovic, who is surprised by his sustained success in recent months.

We put a lot of hours on the practice court and it paid off. We set up a plan and the peak was supposed to arrive around US Open time, and it arrived beforeI'm satisfied of course to be No. 1. What more can I ask for? I won 20-plus (22) matches in a row and had a most amazing last five months of the year.



Back to the peak, overlooking the chasing pack, Djokovic now heads to London for the ATP World Tour Finals.

The newly crowned world No.1 will have Nadal, Federer and co poised to pounce, but Djokovic has lifted the trophy four times at the O2 Arena. 

Perhaps his rivals are off for a quick hike in the mountains…